We landed on Kauai, as we normally do, early in the morning. This is my favorite island. It's mountainous, tropical, lush green and very picturesque. The center of the island is one of the wettest places in the world, thus there are many waterfalls and rivers throughout the area. In the center of the island is a large canyon area. The island is referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. It's an appropriate title.
The first time I saw this lovely island was in the movie Donavan's Reef. You can see the canyons with its vivid color combination of bright brown, greens, orange and yellows. It is understandable that people want to take many pictures of the lovely scenery. I recommend that one should take the time to put the camera down and just look at the landscape and contemplate. Let your senses adjust to the surroundings and enjoy its beauty. Give yourself the opportunity to listen and enjoy the wind brushing by. Take the time to feel the sunlight on your skin. Let your eyes roam across the beautiful views both near and far. Take deep breaths and let the scent of damp dirt and wide range of flowers fill your lungs. Let the awe inspiring view of nature envelop and carry you away.
We walked out of the cruise port and right in front caught the free shuttle up to the Enterprise car rental office. It's a short five minute trip. The small car we had reserved was not available so we were upgraded to a jeep. It car made us feel like we were on a short safari. I recommend that whenever possible, rent a car on the islands and explore on your own. The trip to the beautiful and scenic canyon is well worth the drive. It will take about an hour drive each way. Some of the roads on your way there seem small and rustic. One is expecting major roads and large road signs highlighting where you are going, but it's quite subtle here and that's part of the fun of exploring the island. Keep in mind that the journey is as important as the destination.
Except for a small area in Honolulu the main roads throughout the Hawaiian islands are usually two lane roads. What I enjoy about renting a car is that you can stop anywhere and take side roads to the coast. Tour buses take you directly in air conditioned coaches to the main sites. They move on a tight time schedule. In your car you drive casually with the windows down and getting the scent of the land and its flora and fauna. Many times you can get the wonderful scent of flowers that cover the island. It changes where ever you go. You need to get off the main road and visit small remote coves and quaint towns.
We drove for 10-minutes and reached the Wailua River and where we got on the Smith's Fern Grotto Cruises. It's one of the local tourist attractions. You ride a large river boat for 20-minutes. During the trip one learns about the history and culture of the Hawaiians and how they descended from the Tahitians. They were brave and skilled sailors. They sailed across thousands of miles and in time reached these beautiful islands. There is only one stop and once there one walks up to a small cave area with a waterfall.
One is greeted by a group of performers that provide music for the dancers. The local culture is beautifully embodied and honored in their music and dance. After a fifteen minute performance it was time to return to where were started this tour. The entertainers joined us on the boat as we returned. They continued to perform and we were honored to share their art and elegance. On each trip we take, we get a greater appreciation for their Polynesian culture.
We got back on the road and traveled 20-miles around the island to visit the Kilauea Lighthouse located in the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. Hundreds of seabirds make the cliff sides around the lighthouse their home. On the way there you see the scenic and large homes located on acres of prime oceanfront land. You get to see thousands of sea birds in their nests and courting over the ocean breeze. The view from this site is beautiful and was worth the drive. Apparently whales love to swim around the coves that surround this overlook, but our luck was not with us today and we did not spot any.
We started to return to the port in order to return the car and make it back on the ship before it departed. Along the way we stopped at a supermarket to pick up some provisions (wine! of course). We were surprised to see the prices of items only a bit higher than in the mainland. In years past, prices were fifty percent, or higher, that what we were paying back home. We didn't eat anywhere on shore so I am not sure what prices at a fast food location are.
As we were approaching the main town we noticed an area there were multiple permanent catering trucks serving seafood. At least five of them were offering Mexican food. Population statistics for the islands reports that 10% of the population of the islands is Latino. Additionally, that it's the fastest growing population segment. It's not surprising being that their is a great deal of farming, livestock and service companies-hotels and restaurants on the islands.
Unlike our experience in Oahu, our car rental company on this island (also Enterprise) did provide a free shuttle back to the ship port. When we reach the ship it started to rain heavily. You could get the strong beautiful scent of flowers that grow profusely throughout the island.
Next stop is the last of the Hawaiian islands we will visit. We will visit Maui and then we set course for the South Pacific to visit Samoa, American Samoa (Pago Pago) and the three French Polynesian Islands of Pape'ete (Tahiti), Moorea and Bora Bora.